Movie Review: A24's Eighth Grade

Eighth Grade
Directed By: Bo Burnham
Written By: Bo Burnham
Produced By: Scott Rudin, Eli Bush, Lila Yacoub, Chris Storer
Starring: Elsie Fisher, Josh Hamilton, Emily Robinson, Jake Ryan
Release Date: July 27, 2018 (Houston)
Running Time: 93 Min
Rating: R
Thirteen-year-old Kayla endures the tidal wave of contemporary suburban adolescence as she makes her way through the last week of middle school—the end of her thus far disastrous eighth grade year—before she begins high school.

If you’re getting ready to send the kiddos back to school, no movie is going to make you pause for thought more than this comedy, Eighth Grade. It’s not a comedy in the funny sense.  It’s a comedy in the “I have to laugh so I don’t cry” sense.  And even though Eighth Grade was difficult to watch, at times, it is still so good, and worthy of a trip to an arthouse theater to catch.

Eighth Grade is a time capsule.  Through the film, and on the screen, the audience is transported to the eighth grade.  But it isn’t so much like voyeuristically viewing someone else’s life.  The movie allowed for a genuinely visceral connection to the audience.  The audience cringed in unison several times.  They laughed. The admired. They shed tears.  Eighth Grade is rollercoaster of emotion, and it is that roller coaster which allows the audience to remember the horrors or delights of their adolescent experiences.  We were all there, or knew someone who was. Watching the movie will bring back all of the feels. 

The film is success thanks to the writing of Bo Burnham, the film’s writer/director. In his feature film debut, Burnham shows that he isn’t afraid to hold mirrors up to the audience, pimples and all. It is as if he is inviting audiences to, not only, look at the screen, but also to look at themselves. The plot moves at the same pace of the eighth grade.  Some days are good, and go by in a blink of an eye.  The bad days seem to go on forever.   

Elsie Fisher's portrayal of Kayla, the film's protagonist, is gifted. Eighth Grade is the beginning of what is sure to be a great career for her. Fisher brings just the right amount of teenage angst without seeming bratty or shallow. She also exudes hopeful optimism even during the most difficult scenes. Her life isn't perfect. This is a John Hughes film. Not everything is tied-up with a bow by the time the last scene wraps, and that is okay. That feels real. 

Above all, Eighth Grade has a great message.  It displays all of the warts of adolescence without being dark.  The references to social media are very timely. The ending is fantastic. It is a must-see for anyone who has a teenager, knows a teenager or was a teenager.  Don't miss Eighth Grade, in theaters. 

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